Today’s guest is Tamara Branch, author of the self-esteem book for teens and young women, ITGIRL4LIFE. Tamara is from New York, born and raised in the Bronx. She has worked as a professional model and actor for almost two decades. She strutted down the runway for designers Calvin Klein, Donna Karen and Christian Dior, acted in a few independent films, co-hosted PBS New York’s education series, “What’s up in Technology” and appeared T.V. commercials and print ads for Levi’s, Old Navy, Hershey’s, Colgate, Kellogg’s Special K, Revlon, Hanes, Nike and many others. A Penn State alumnus and lifelong student of personal development, Tamara is deeply passionate about uplifting the human spirit. After graduating from Institute for Integrative Nutrition, studying under Deepak Chopra, Dr. Andrew Weil and some of the top health and wellness experts in the world, she was inspired to raise the bar on her own ‘self care’ and support others in living more vibrantly. She is an abstract artist and teaches a dynamic dance class, where she gets to fuse her varied background, having trained in everything from jazz, ballet and modern to Afro-Caribbean and Salsa. Tamara was recently asked to become a Female Visionary Author guest blogger for The Brave Heart Women Global Community. She’s a SAG/AFTRA member since 1998, a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is represented by Abrams Artists Agency. She currently lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband of seven years and offers ITGIRL4LIFE workshops to assist girls on their self empowerment journey.
Thank you for this interview, Tamara. What an impressive background. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
Tamara: Sure, well I’m from New York, born and raised in the Bronx. I grew up in an area that had it’s challenges, like any other inner city. I had amazing parents, well I have amazing parents. We had a lot of community support on the block. People really looked out for each other. I was a creative kid-always singing and dancing, writing poems, scenes with friends, performing in the school plays and church fashion shows and no surprise, I became that creative adult. I wrote to express myself but my writing was in the background until now. I started modeling full-time after graduating Penn State, did some films, hosting and spent many years as a commercial actor and that’s been my gig up until a few years ago when I had the idea to write ITGIRL4LIFE. I wanted to contribute to the self-esteem conversation, which is an area of passion for me. I’m a student of personal development. I seek to live more vibrantly, more optimally and I love to help others do the same. Inspiring girls and women to shine, to know their value and worth, and to step into their power is a mission close to my heart and it was time for me to pour some love into that.
Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
Tamara: ITGIRL4LIFE is a self-empowerment guide for teen girls — a how-to on building confidence, honoring your life and cultivating genuine self-love inside and out. It’s packed with the simple yet profound ideas, tools and principles that help you build a strong foundation for your life.
Why did you choose your particular genre?
Tamara: I had to become a Young Adult self-esteem author. It was on my heart to write this book. It came to me from a deep place within as a woman. So many girls and women are struggling with low self-esteem and not having a healthy view of yourself negatively impacts every area of your life. The pre-teen and teen years can be tough. You’re trying to figure things out. Hormones are raging, body is changing, your life is taking a big leap forward. These are the years you start to step into who you are as an individual. I am committed to celebrating girls and doing what I can to help them unlock their brilliant potential and shine their light in the world. Being in touch with your own wisdom, beauty, and strength is invaluable and we’re not taught that. ITGIRL4LIFE, in a straight-forward way, reminds girls of their power and encourages them to boldly create the lives they desire.
What was your greatest challenge writing this book?
Tamara: Developing the writing discipline was an early challenge. Later when I began the editing process, I realized that you can edit ’til the cows come home. You have to get to a point where you let the book be what it is. You stop cutting and correcting and you walk away throw your hands in the air and say, “I’m done.”
Are you published by a traditional house, small press or are you self-published?
Tamara: I chose to self-publish. I created my own publishing company and imprint to publish this book and books I write in the future.
Was it the right choice for you?
Tamara: Yes, definitely. As a first-time author, I wanted to learn about the publishing industry. I wanted to do the work for my own education. At that time I did not want to wait, I just wanted to dive in. There are pro’s and con’s to both approaches. If I decide down the road to pursue a traditional house I’m in a better position to get a book deal with a successful book already out there.
How are you promoting your book thus far?
Tamara: I started by reaching out to girl’s organizations in the U.S. We got great feedback and some really good reviews from that effort. I’m on a virtual book tour currently and posting on social media regularly, Instagram and twitter, mostly. I participated in a Women’s Expo which gave me the opportunity to sell a bunch of books and connect with individual’s and companies that resonate with this platform to enrich the lives of girls. I submitted for book awards (ITGIRL4LIFE won the gold Mom’s Choice award for YA inspirational book) and hopefully will get more recognition later this year. Winning awards can help boost the book sales and credibility of a new book. Marketing is ever changing and you have to come at it from different angles. I’m developing my speaking platform and doing ITGIRL4LIFE workshops as well. It’s ongoing, non stop work once you are published.
How is that going for you?
Tamara: It’s good at times and frustrating at times. The promotional phase can seem like an uphill climb. I was told by a friend of mine who is in marketing, before my book was published, that it’s a marathon, not a race. I’m finding that to be true and it helps to come back to that statement for your sanity. I’m thankful that ITGIRL4LIFE has been in the top 100 self-esteem books for teens on Amazon more than it’s been off that list. It’s reaching young women and that’s the whole point.
Can you tell us one thing you have done that actually resulted in one or more sales?
Tamara: I recommend doing a virtual book tour. It has helped me create a greater online presence and has boosted website traffic and sales considerably.
Do you have another job besides writing?
Tamara: Right now I’m a full-time writer and speaker.
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
Tamara: Awareness is everything. People need to know your book exists and the market is super crowded. You have to find a way to stand out. I would say you need to have a social media campaign as a foundation. Regular postings, pictures, sharing your writing journey, your book and your personality with your potential readers through blogs and videos. People have to care enough to buy and today’s author has to employ a few more strategies to reach their audience than in the past.
What’s next for you?
Tamara: ITGIRL4LIFE, the book, the marketing, the self-esteem movement, speaking engagements and working on my second book is about all can handle at the moment.
ITGIRL4LIFE is available at Amazon.